As the world began to process the reality of the horrors that struck Paris on Friday night, I had to stop and think of the horses that represent that great city. The horses in the fountains, the statues, the magnificent Garde Republicaine, the horses of Versailles, the horses of…I stopped in my tracks…the horses of Salon du Cheval.
Friday’s tragedy took place just two weeks before the opening of one of the world’s premiere horse events. Salon du Cheval is the Paris horse fair, the all-breed all-sport exposition primed for its 44th year in the City of Lights.
The joyous nine-day pre-holiday exhibition brings 2000 horses into the city. It normally attracts 150,000 visitors. Champagne flows in the huge trade show, which has 450 exhibitors. A great attraction is a CSI 5* show jumping event, the Paris Longines Masters. And then there is Nuit du Cheval (The Night of the Horse), the magical evening performance.
Horses matter in France, which is considered the #2 equestrian nation in the world, according to Salon du Cheval, and the host of more international equestrian competitions than any other nation. France is home to a million horses. And Salon du Cheval has made a name for itself as fun for visitors, good for business, and a boon to the city of Paris for show-related tourism income.
Equestrian event organizers usually worry about storms and power outages and labor strikes and transit problems. Does international terrorism cross their minds? Will the show go on, I wondered, with Paris in mourning, in fear and in shock?
My question was answered Monday morning:
The answer was a resounding “yes!” The organizers added a black band to the event logo, they announced a list of security enhancements, and they pledged that the show–which includes the elite international Longines Masters show jumping event–will go on.
“Following the tragic events in Paris, the Salon du Cheval de Paris confirmed (its) next edition, from November 28th to December 6th (at the) Parc des Expositions – Villepinte.
“As organizer, COMEXPOSIUM is putting in place increased security measures (bag checks, entry controls and security staff) and working with the law enforcement authorities to optimize security at the event. Obviously, the French government might decide to introduce further measures in the next few days.
“The show will be held as expected and the COMEXPOSIUM teams are at your disposal to answer your questions and concerns.
“All the team of The Salon du Cheval de Paris and COMEXPOSIUM, share the sorrow of all the families of the victims and (adhere) to the national mourning decreed by the President of France.”
By contrast, many entertainment events in the city have been cancelled. Cultural institutions and museums, including The Louvre, planned to reopen today at 1 p.m., after the national minute of silence, according to the 20minutes.fr entertainment site.
Horse racing was also disrupted by the tragedy and is expected to resume later this week. Some racing will take place today but “behind closed doors”, probably meaning that the public will not be allowed to attend. The French racing website PMU noted that no horses had appeared in the morning at the training track at Vincennes after the shootings.
“Salon du Cheval pas annulée!” echoed across Twitter. (“Salon du Cheval not cancelled!”)
I think I felt a grieving city breathe a small sigh of relief through the Twitter responses to the event’s Tweet. There is something to look forward to. The horses are coming–they won’t disappoint the city that loves them–and Humphrey Bogart was right, after all.
Humphrey Bogart? Yes. When he sent Ingrid Bergman flying off to safety and stayed behind in Casablanca to face the music for doing so, he assured her, “We’ll always have Paris.”
And so will the horse world.